‘Alaskana pop art’ mixes cultural heritage with modern style

Produced by Hanna Craig.

Artist Christopher Sutliff grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, looking at what he called “kitsch Americana” art, which seemed primarily marketed to tourists.

He wanted to create something uniquely modern and Alaskan, putting his own contemporary spin on traditional styles. “I try to create things that are highly legible and engaging and carry a bit of a punch,” he said.

Now, Sutliff creates murals and other public art projects using pop art designs that are directly inspired by the Alaskan environment, he said. “I think that we come from such a unique cultural and geographical and environmental [place]. If you grow up in Alaska, you grow up in one of the most beautiful places on the earth,” he said.

Sutliff will usually work on a design for weeks before beginning a project and recently created a mural for Anchorage Community Works, a community art and music space in Anchorage. “I’ve chosen mediums that are directly integrated into people’s lives,” he said. “To me, the most interesting art is the art that is lived in the context of people’s lives.”

Local Beat is an ongoing series on Art Beat that features arts and culture stories from PBS member stations around the nation.